Your Daily Phil: S.F. mayor visits Haifa + One Million Lobby fights for Russian-speaking Israelis

Good Monday morning!

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on the recent visit by San Francisco Mayor London Breed to Israel, and feature an op-ed from Miriam Hirsch and Selma Botman. We’ll start with a profile of One Million Lobby founder and CEO Alex Rif.

When Alex Rif spoke on stage at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly last month, she appeared with a sign, urging in all capital letters: “LET MY PEOPLE IN.” The message, written in English, was an homage to, and an inversion of, the American Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry’s slogan, “Let my people go,” reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

A poet and serial social entrepreneur, Rif is the founder and CEO of Israel’s One Million Lobby, which advocates for the country’s Russian-speaking population. She created the organization in late 2020, with the stated goal of working toward “a better social, economic, and cultural reality for the 1.2 million Russian-speaking Israelis.” Her organization has grown in prominence over the past year, driven by two major developments: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the still-simmering but largely stalled debate over Israel’s Law of Return, which determines who is eligible for Israeli citizenship, specifically the plans to annul the so-called “grandchild clause,” which allows anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent to make aliyah.

Her goal is to ensure that Russian-speaking Israelis are involved in the discussions about issues that will directly affect them, particularly matters of religion and state. Rif told eJP that her motto on these issues is: “Nothing about us without us.”

Rif, who was born in Ukraine and immigrated to Israel with her family in the early 1990s, has emerged as a somewhat curious figure in Israeli politics, bringing a degree of nuance that generally does not conform to the kind of partisanship that Israel has seen in recent years.

The One Million Lobby focuses considerable effort on reforming the government’s conversion authority to better take into account the particularities and sensitivities of the Russian-speaking Israeli community, without watering down the conversion process. The organization also advocates for new immigrants from Russia and Ukraine, as well as for continued aliyah from the former Soviet Union, specifically by opposing efforts to officially and unofficially change the Law of Return. In addition, it works to support the thousands of Russian-speaking Holocaust survivors in Israel, many of whom do not receive the level of support as non-Russian-speaking survivors, and the One Million Lobby is also heavily involved in efforts to create a museum dedicated to the history and heritage of Russian-speaking Jewry.

Later this month, Rif will travel to the United States with a group organized by the Israeli NGO Gesher, which encourages dialogue both within Israeli society and between Israel and the Diaspora. The trip will be funded in part by Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Ministry. During the visit, Rif and the other participants will meet with representatives from the American Jewish community in New York and Washington.

Read the full article here.

London’s calling

In Israel, S.F. Mayor London Breed looks to take lessons back to the Bay Area

San Francisco Mayor London Breed (left) meets with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in his residence last week. (Courtes)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed was at dinner in Tel Aviv on Thursday night as Palestinian Islamic Jihad rockets were fired toward central Israel, setting off sirens around the city. “I grew up where shooting was common. So for me, that type of thing… it’s not as if I was concerned,” Breed, who grew up in public housing in San Francisco, told Melissa Weiss for eJewishPhilanthropy’s sister publication Jewish Insider the following afternoon. “Part of it is the attitude [that], ‘We’re not going to live in fear.’ And I feel the same way. I grew up in a community where violence was naturally a part of the community, unfortunately. And in some instances, I did live in fear, because I was worried that somebody I cared about was going to get shot and killed.”

JCRC at work: Breed, a Democrat, is in Israel on a weeklong trip with the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area that includes stops in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, the latter which has been a sister city of San Francisco since the 1970s. While in Haifa, Breed signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem, renewing the agreement between the two cities. In Jerusalem, she met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

Hospital ideas: In Haifa, the delegation visited the Technion and the University of Haifa, where conversations centered around the shared challenge of economic revitalization. Breed also visited Rambam Medical Center, which has a fortified 2,000-bed underground complex where its medical staff can attend to patients in the event of an emergency such as rocket attacks. The visit comes as the University of California, San Francisco is moving forward on building a new hospital at its Parnassus Heights campus, a multibillion-dollar effort that was approved last year. “We should tear down the old General Hospital, build it as big as we can, go underground, because in that area — it’s solid rock by the way — go underground and create exactly what they did at Rambam,” Breed suggested.

Read the full story here.

Investing in the future

Addressing the shortage of Jewish early childhood educators

Courtesy/Stern College for Women

“It is with great interest and excitement that we read about Project-412, the joint effort of the JCC Association of North America, Jewish Federations of North America and the Union for Reform Judaism to address the critical shortage of Jewish early childhood educators,” write Miriam Hirsch, chair of the Stern College for Women educator preparation program, and Selma Botman, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Yeshiva University, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

At Y.U.: “This effort perfectly aligns with our efforts. At Yeshiva University, we recognized that one of the most pressing problems facing the Jewish community today is the shortage of qualified early childhood teachers. Compensation is often poor, and the perception that early childhood education is for the unskilled has led to a regrettable lack of dignity and sometimes professionalism of the field.”

Formal community entry: “Yet, studies have shown the dramatic impact of Jewish early childhood education, which not only touches young students, but also entire families. Whether through a day school, a synagogue or a JCC, it is, for many families, the formal entry into the Jewish community.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

From Generation to Generation: In The New York Times, Talmon Joseph Smith explores the large amounts of money soon to be changing hands as baby boomers pass their wealth on to their children and grandchildren. “Of the 73 million baby boomers, the youngest are turning 60. The oldest boomers are nearing 80. Born in midcentury as U.S. birthrates surged in tandem with an enormous leap in prosperity after the Depression and World War II, boomers are now beginning to die in larger numbers, along with Americans over 80. Most will leave behind thousands of dollars, a home or not much at all. Others are leaving their heirs hundreds of thousands, or millions, or billions of dollars in various assets… And it’s already impacting the broader economy, greasing the wheels of social mobility for some and leaving obstacles for those left out as the cost of living, housing and raising families surge… David Kelly, the chief global strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, warns that ‘it’s not a matter of just taxing the wealth of the richest and handing it out to everybody else,’ especially since a wealth tax might well be struck down as unconstitutional by the courts… ‘The real question is not “why are the rich rich?” or what to do about that,’ Mr. Kelly argued. ‘It is “why are the poor poor?” and what to do about that.’” [NYT]

The Start of a Special Relationship: In TheWashington Post, Gordon F. Sander looks into the unexpected but also natural decision by then-President Harry Truman to recognize the State of Israel minutes after it declared independence in. “Seventy-five years ago Sunday, precisely on schedule at midnight, the first Jewish state in nearly 2,000 years was declared in Jerusalem. Exactly 11 minutes later, the historic announcement was followed by another: The U.S. government had recognized that newborn state, called Israel. The first announcement, which coincided with the end of the contentious British mandate over Palestine, was widely expected. The second was not, even for American officials. Some members of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations were so surprised by President Harry S. Truman’s decision that they broke into laughter: Why would Truman, a pronounced antisemite, choose to become the American godfather of Israeli statehood? Yet, of all the momentous decisions that fell to the 33rd U.S. president — dropping the atomic bomb, integrating the armed forces, going to war in Korea — Truman’s decision to recognize Israel stands out as perhaps the most misunderstood. The decision, which launched a fierce international alliance that today is being challenged, was in fact a long time coming.” [WashPost]

Comfort, Honesty or Both?: In The New York Times, Jennifer Miller explores the shift from a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace to belonging. “The question of belonging has become the latest focus in the evolving world of corporate diversity, equity and inclusion programming. Interest in creating more inclusive workplaces exploded after George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Many corporations turned their attention to addressing systemic racism and power imbalances — the things that had kept boardrooms white and employees of color feeling excluded from office life. Now, nearly three years since that moment, some companies are amending their approach to D.E.I., even renaming their departments to include ‘belonging.’ It’s the age of D.E.I.-B.” [NYT]

Around the Web

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced an additional $25 million for organizations at risk of hate crimes and vandalism in the 2024 budget. The budget also includes $3.5 million in funding for the Hate and Bias Prevention Unit…

California Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a new budget proposal that includes $10 million for the state’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program. That sum falls short of the nearly $50 million allocated for the program last year and well below the $80 million advocated by Jewish groups…

Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli told the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee that the government plans to invest $150 million in Jewish education in the United States. An official from his office said the details of the program were still being worked out…

The Carl Victor Page Memorial Foundation, established by Google co-founder Larry Page and named after his father, has grown from $2.9 billion in assets in 2018 to $6.7 billion in 2021, with nearly all awards directed to donor-advised funds…

Israeli singer Noa Kirel came in third place in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, U.K., losing out to winner Loreen of Sweden and runner-up Käärijä of Finland…

Pic of the Day

Cambridge University Library

A fragment of 900-year-old paper has been discovered that is believed to be in the handwriting of Maimonides – and appears to show him translating a basic glossary of words from his customary Judeo-Arabic into a Romance language – an evolving dialect of Latin that would eventually become modern-day Spanish. This new Maimonides text was discovered in the Cairo Genizah collections at Cambridge University Library.


Shahar Azran/Getty Images

Owner/president of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings since 2004, he is chairman of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Mark Wilf

Principal of Queens-based Muss Development, a major real estate development company founded by his grandfather Isaac in 1906, Joshua Lawrence Muss… Chairman emeritus of The Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States, Rachel Oestreicher Bernheim… VP of the American Zionist Movement and chairman of the Religious Zionists of America, Martin Oliner… Retired major general in the IDF, he served as Israel’s national security advisor and is now a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, Yaakov Amidror… CEO of Emigrant Bank, a leading real estate developer and philanthropist, Howard Philip Milstein… Owner of Midnight Music Management and one of the founders of The Happy Minyan in Los Angeles, Stuart Wax… Associate editor and columnist at the Washington Post, Ruth Allyn Marcus… Five-time Emmy Award-winning journalist, producer, filmmaker and Latin media marketing entrepreneur, Giselle Fernandez… Former member of the Nevada Assembly, she served as secretary of the National Association of Jewish Legislators, Ellen Barre Spiegel… Actor and filmmaker, Grant Heslov… International development and policy strategist, she is the founder of Reeves Advisory, Pamela R. Reeves… Actor and comedian, David Krumholtz… Executive director in the Office of Crime Victim Services at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Shira Rosenthal PhelpsNoam Finger… Executive director at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Daniel M. Rothschild… Actress best known for her role as Tony Soprano’s daughter, Meadow, Jamie-Lynn Sigler… Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author, Eli Eric Saslow… Senior editor at Vogue, Chloe F. Schama… Former senior advisor to the secretary of defense and Pentagon lead on the Iron Dome, Eric Lynn… Rochelle Wilner… Ofir Richman…